Loverby and I stopped by for dry ice to finish off the root beer recipe. I dropped the five pounds in to the
ten gallon cooler and screwed the lid on loosely. The fragrant fog rolling out from under the lid caused a
passerby to turn his head and sniff the air. I met his eye and we smiled at each other. He said it smelled so good and reminded him of when he was a kid.
I mentioned we were heading over to the park for a last BBQ of the season and he was more than welcome to come. He looked down, shuffling his feet and said it would be hard for him to get there. I offered him a ride with us.
Loverby had a conference call, so Frank helped me run into Safeway for 5 bags of ice for the ice cream
making part of the root beer float extravaganza.
He helped us unload the truck, took his turn at cranking the ice cream, and kept ice and salt packed around the cylinders.
Frank sat with me as the ice cream was curing and before the food line started. That picnic bench
turned quickly into sacred ground.
He didn't have a spot to sleep that night because he wouldn't be back at the shelter before curfew.
He had beautiful, tender eyes.
He said he wanted to be seen, for someone to look in his eyes.
He only remembered a grandmother's love when he was five.
He started hopping trains when he was 15.
He had hot tears streaming down his eyes and tried to dash them away with his sleeve, unseen.
He had a hard time keeping personal belongings from getting stolen.
He was afraid of getting diseases 'common to transients' - his words.
His biggest fear was dying alone on some track, without anyone knowing or caring. Dying alone.
His biggest dream was having a new big backpack full of adventure on the rails.
He made me cry.
He told me when he was able to have a shower with fresh clothes, he felt good.
He made me cry some more.
He admitted that he had a drug and alcohol problem, but liked to give his fellow 'transients' food stamps if they were hungry.
He wanted to help people.
He talked of pain, of feeling different and alone, not fitting in.
He made me cry.
He was 28.
I saw his back as he walked away before eating with us. I didn't follow him, even though I wished he
could have stayed and had steak and a root beer float. He never looked back.
A friend gently said, "Maybe he got what he needed tonight."
Maybe so, but perhaps it was me who got what I needed tonight. A precious glimpse into a life and heart
outside my safe little, clean little, warm little, suburban bubble.
The water marks on the page, if you can see them, are tears. Hot, salty, futile ones.
Watch those homeless people, they are thieves and can quickly steal your heart.